PEACE

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“keep the peace within,” where has it been, that deep peace. Anxiety rules. Yet I’ve been unaware of the anxiety until a trip to the ER in the ambulance woke me up to it and how anxiety has played a role in upsetting all of my body systems.

I crave that deep and sustaining peace I felt and once had not long ago. Yet daily events, interactions with others, even loved ones, maybe especially those, cause anxiety. 

I underestimate what I’ve taken on. 63 years of held secrets. It wasn’t enough to write the book, purge the tarry oily scum that others had shoved down me, I had to let Don, Seth and Stevie know. My head didn’t do it, it came from another place ethereal that won’t be silenced any longer. 

I have broken the taboo that has existed since the beginning the time. I spoke the truth about sexual abuse within a family, no less a crime because it is family, more so. Yet we do not speak of it.

I did. I am scared, anxious, and alone. How can I do what society, my mother, my friends, what everyone has trained me not to do? 

This morning I sat on the back porch with coffee. One baby morning dove has left the next. The other took off when I was meditating, trying to come back and hanging onto the screen but Molly jumped at it scaring it away. Once leaving the next you don’t come back. So it seems with family. 

I feel that deep peace that has escaped me. I’m not sure why I feel it this morning but I’ve been craving it since the dental surgery. It has taken that long to come to terms with feeling stepped on and abused. And allowing it. I feel back in my body. I have moments of feeling like who I really am. 

That may seem like such an absurd statement, but others seem settled in who they are. I am just discovering her. It scares me. What else will arise from the deep, deep place that my head won’t have time to muzzle?

Who am I really, if not what others have molded, that sweet, dutiful, pleasing ghost of a girl?

CONSPIRACY

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Guilt. Fear. Don, my niece, her boys… How could I not go to the city for the party? I didn’t. The pressure in my heart is the hole of no family realized at last. A family doesn’t conspire to silence a little girl raped, or abused sexually to the extent I was for years and by so many.

Shames YOU, you say? How horrific for you, that you have to face that your brothers attacked me. So you don’t face it. And in not facing it, you force the death of who I am. You will interact with me, act caring, act like I am always in need and that you will be there to help, but only if I’m silent. And all three impose this life coffin on me. And I acquiesce. And my chest hurts with the killing pressure of silence. I have no family.

My family is inside my heart where I have found me at last. And I am opening up to that little girl all others abandoned. My mother knew, twice. It was only on time three that action was taken. Too late.

Two brothers knew, Don and Seth. I protected the younger one, Stevie, until now, when he called months ago asking for donations for Chet’s grand-kids after dying  of a massive heart attack. Stevie did so out of guilt because he had no contact with Chet throughout adult life, no one did.

And now it is too late. And it has nothing to do with what he did to me. It was about Tom and his wife. Chet became romantic with her during their divorce.

It has always been about Tom, the worst abuser. Not because he committed the worst abuse. Danny’s was so violent, my psyche still won’t allow it to surface. Chet’s was ongoing, predatory, vile, disgusting, and betrayed me in every way.

I don’t talk about brother four in my book. He died from a heart attack before the book was written. There was no reason to risk the chance of his surviving wife and three sons to learn what their father did. When he attacked it didn’t seem to matter. I was garbage. Just one more. It doesn’t matter. It does matter. Every wrong touch matters.

In adult life I dared ask him. He said, “I don’t remember.” 

Despite the torture of Chet’s abuse, I didn’t despise him, I pitied him. But Tom? The psychological torture of putting me down for years after to make me look inconsequential nearly destroyed me. He is the one I could cut up into little pieces and feed to the sharks.

No others worked so diligently to defile my character. He was methodical and persistent in yearning to destroy me. No others treated me so vile after their attacks, not at all. Not Danny, not the brother I don’t speak of in my book, and not Chet.

My heart hurts. I don’t go to the city to Don’s 70th birthday party, where I could also see my niece who is visiting all the way from Texas. This is a brother who took me in, cared for me, guided me. Mom would shame me if she were alive, but I’ve taken on her criticisms very well without her. How could I not go? Because on that day we returned from the Adirondacks. Doing both is too much. Not good enough. Squeezing pressure. The pressure tightens because without that excuse I’d have to go. I didn’t want to. 

This Saturday we go to the lake where Stevie lives in the summer managing properties. I spoke up to Stevie for the first time when he asked for money for Chet’s grandchildren.

“So you don’t want to donate?” he asked again hopefully.

“No, I don’t feel obligated,” I responded. And we left it at that, until I felt compelled to send an email admonishing him for even asking. “Didn’t you read my book? I sent you a link,” I wrote. 

“No, I didn’t see a link,” he emails back. I sent the link again. 

Stevie has learned through the years from Tom’s expertly crafted put-down’s that it is OK to treat me as if I don’t deserve the same respect and consideration as others. It must have been a shock to him that I spoke up.

Being with family, isn’t it supposed to be fun? I am wary. I am not the person I was. And the lake visit may be the end of the one last relationship. During my hospitalization in November I could have died and none of those three would have known. There is no real family, there never was, only a clinging to the hope of one. People can’t be close when they must spend the rest of their lives licking their own wounds. 

I had always thought at least I have three brothers that have not touched me, who I could call brothers and have relationships with. No. I am learning now, especially after Seth’s wrath, that that is not so.

The conspiracy of silence is as much or more of a betrayal than the attacks and the attackers. The pretense of caring that is conditional kills. I care about you only if you don’t talk about the truths of sexual abuse. Pretend you are something you are not. You must be what I want you to be.

How have I stomached it, forced it down…like swallowing a live python…how?

I am part of a family… Samuel, Shane and Cory.

ROUGH WATERS

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What fills me? What is my happy? I only have today, and even that isn’t a given, so fill it up with the things I love. I’m not running a marathon like Jessica in the Iron Man at Lake Placid today. GOOD LUCK JESSICA- you are already a winner and a success!  Thank you power woman for being a leader of healthy living. You inspire me to persevere with my own physical activity even when I don’t want to. It always feels good when I do!

I’m not saving the world or running for political office. My goals are simpler. My feelings of satisfaction at the end of the day include doing the things that I feel good about; meditation, exercise, eating right, accomplishing tasks around the house that keep it tidy, and adding simple pleasures to make life worthwhile.

Mom was the Commander while living. Then I began to feel what it was like running my own ship. But too often I still feel like a dinghy cut loose, riding the waves, hanging on trying not to drown.

I like the feeling of commanding my day, having some control over it and my life, not feeling victim to it. Yet interactions with the outside world set me spinning. The delicate balance achieved in body and mind is too easily disrupted causing chaos and negative thoughts.

I do not know the answer to this loss of serenity. When serenity visits I grab on and make the very best of it. 

SECRETS

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How a caretaker reacts and deals with a child who has been sexually abused has the potential to cause much more destruction than the abuse. In my case that caretaker was my mother. She quieted me by using my own shame.

From the very first touch sexually by a trusted brother that I loved wholly and looked up to, I felt intense confusion. It made me feel bad. Even that young I knew it was terribly wrong. My interpretation was that I was wrong, shameful and abhorrent. As it continued my body reacted with pleasure, as a body is meant to do. That shamed me further and solidified my badness, being wrong, dirty, even unfit to live.

My mother took advantage of my shame, shaming me further into silence so I would keep the family secret inside myself. She had a favorite taunt when my true nature came out which is one that speaks honestly, “You should be ashamed of yourself!”

I am Mom, I am. You were thorough.

I kept quiet until 7 years ago after she died. A chapter each week erupted out of me. That I held such vomit in for so long is hard to believe possible. Out it came week after week. It should have come out at the age of eight.

Mother, you should have sat in my bedroom, not to scold me, but to listen. You could have saved me Mother. You chose not to. You chose to protect your brood at the expense of your daughter. That is not love.

Keeping it in took a lot of food. Later alcohol, and food. But food remains the biggest escape. The more I come back into my body, the more I am able to feel food fullness. For most it is natural to be in one’s body. For me it is not.

I have fleeting moments of connection. Those moments are powerful. I’m learning to distinguish the physical feelings of fullness after eating from the other empty places where food is used unsuccessfully to fill.